Editor’s Note: Stephanie Krehbiel wrote the following to Ervin Stutzman (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the rest of the board in response to the statement released by MC USA’s executive board meeting this past weekend. She draws correlation between sexualized violence and the violence of excluding from fellowship an entire population of God’s people for their God-given sexual preference. We invite you to share your own responses in public forums like this one or directly with Mennonite Church leaders. Krehbiel is a PhD Candidate in the Department of American Studies at the University of Kansas. Her dissertation research is on conflicts over sexual diversity among Mennonites in the U.S.
Dear Ervin & MCUSA Executive Board,
My heart hurts today. Every time I think I’ve put it out of my mind, I get another message from someone who has been devastated by what came out of the Executive Board this week. I’ve tried so hard not to care about this church that you lead, even as I study it and write about it. In spite of how it may appear, I’ve tried to stay emotionally detached, because I fear the pain of caring. I fear being drawn into the spiritual abuse that you leaders perpetuate through your language and your actions, because I’ve already seen more than enough spiritual abuse from the Mennonite church.
I see the effects of such abuse today. I do not use words like “abuse” or “violence” lightly. This is what is happening. I’ve seen too much to doubt that. If you allowed yourself, you would see it too. I still don’t believe that you have allowed yourself to see. I think you all commit an act of violence every time that you claim that the pro-inclusion movement and the heterosexist conservatives are two extreme ends of a divisive political “issue.”
You commit the same violence done by my grandmother’s Mennonite church when they demanded that her sister apologize before her congregation for divorcing her philandering, abusive husband. You commit the same violence that my husband’s grandmother’s Mennonite church committed when they excommunicated her family after her father committed suicide. You commit the same violence that so many Mennonites have committed in allowing their love of John Howard Yoder’s work and prestigious reputation to marginalize and dismiss the women he harassed and assaulted. In all of those situations, there was some sort of prayerful process in place for determining the best course of action. Well-meaning people followed that process, and then believed they had done right.
I know you aren’t solely responsible for this. I know the conservative congregations and conferences are threatening to leave, and take their money with them. I know that the inclusive congregations don’t threaten to leave, for an infinite number of reasons but perhaps most importantly because they fear leaving behind all of the LGBTQ kids in those more conservative communities who could otherwise be doomed to judgment, misery, abuse, suicide, and God only knows what else. You won’t lose the inclusive congregations. You’ll lose their tired children; the ones who can’t take your awful, paternalistic, passive aggressive, hypocritical, institutional nonsense language any longer. You’ve already lost so many of them. You’ve already lost me, my spouse, and so many members of my family. I don’t think you are even curious as to why we leave. Prove me wrong, I beg you.
Your church wastes life. You waste people. You waste the energy of youth. You waste time. So much inexcusable waste. Jesus would condemn such waste. And you know that he would.
You’ve made a false idol of this fragile denomination. And I believe history will judge you and your fellow leaders for it. I’d love to celebrate its demise, but I can’t do anything but mourn, because I know how many people who deserve better are going to be hurt.
I pray for a better church than this. But I don’t hold my breath.
All my best,